David McPherson was homeschooled in Chattanooga, finished high school by age 15, and collected his UTC bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering in May 2015 at 19 years old. His brother Andrew also graduated in May at age 21 with a software engineering degree—he has accepted a position at Amazon’s headquarters in Seattle to work on new web development.
David says Andrew is the “best tech manager” he’s ever worked with, and that his exceptional organizational skills and interpersonal skills have set him up for professional success. “I owe a great deal to my big brother, Andrew,” David said.
As Andrew begins his professional career, David engages in research at The University of California, Berkeley, as an electrical engineering and computer science Ph.D. student.
“This summer I will be working with Dr. Ronald Fearing on creating a team of wallet-sized robots to assist in locating earthquake survivors pancaked beneath rubble,” David explained. “Lots of other cool robotics research is happening at Berkeley, and I’m allowed to choose which one I want to work on for the next five years. After that, who knows? Maybe I’ll go to industry if there’s some cool research happening there, or maybe I’ll come back to UTC or elsewhere to help teach the next generation of engineering dreamers.”
As a UTC student, David and his friends followed their dreams in the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and as part of the robotics team, a community for learning and good friends.
“I will always cherish the good times I’ve had with my friends making bad electronics puns in class, sharing lunch, puzzling over a non-cooperative robot, or discussing pros and cons of competing designs,” David said.
His friends were also responsible for inviting him to actively engage in the improvement of the department, where David found excellent faculty.
Dr. Abdul Ofoli inspired David with engaging lectures, involvement in student organizations, and creating plenty of opportunities for students to practice applying ideas.
David called Dr. T. Daniel Loveless “amazing” and one of his favorite professors. “The magnitude of his vast electronics knowledge is only superseded by his love for helping students pursue their research dreams through projects. His presentation skills and pedagogy are great,” David said.
David also respects the work of Dr. Neslihan Alp, Interim Dean of the College of Engineering and Computer Science.
“Dr. Alp has been an enormous help and supporter of positive change in our college. She has really listened to student needs and requests, and has been moving to fix many of our problems,” he said.
David’s interest in engineering began in middle school, when he joined a robotics team and found he enjoyed dreaming up new designs, what he calls “the start” followed by “solving technical puzzles presented throughout the process (the journey), and finally the euphoria of creating something (the destination).”
“After discovering that engineering was not only creative, important, and cool, but also tons of fun, I was sold,” he explained.
In his opinion, engineering should be grouped with the creative fields like art, design, and creative writing.
“This is because engineering is a creative design process that has computer code, microchips, and gears as its watercolors and the physics of our universe as its canvas. Like the best designs, our designs can change the way people interact with the world and how we view each other,” David added.
For David, engineering is all about turning dreams into reality to help humanity and to better understand the universe.
“As a kid, I was raised on fantasy and science fiction of all media. I wanted to take the amazing worlds dreamed up by these fantastic fiction authors and bring them to our world. Engineering is a sort of magic to me.